Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
Bloodstone & Diamonds is a record that has slow burner written all over it; clocking in at an epic seventy minutes, it boasts some of the most considered, restrained writing of the band’s career to date. That it might take a little while to click, though, is unlikely to be of any real concern to frontman and last remaining founder member Rob Flynn, who has seen pretty much everything about his time in Machine Head – sales figures, ascension to arena status – come about gradually.
This, Oakland bruisers' eighth album was written during a time of relative upheaval for the group – they signed to a new record label, Nuclear Blast, after splitting from their longtime home at Roadrunner, and lost bassist Adam Duce for reasons initially believed to be amicable, before a later lawsuit suggested they were anything but. The temptation for Flynn to take drastic measures to really reassert Machine Head as one of metal’s premier forces must have been there – especially after Unto the Locust, didn’t quite make the same splash as 2007’s The Blackening did – so it’s hugely to his credit that he has so meticulously overseen the making of their most thoughtfully constructed album to date.
They sound every bit as heavy as they ever have, of course – punishing opener Now We Die and the uncompromising throwdown of Eyes of the Dead certainly serve as testament to that – but what Machine Head galvanise on this record is their penchant for nuance and intelligence, an art that seems to have escaped so many of their contemporaries.
The cornerstone is the eight-and-a-half minute epic Sail into the Black; in many ways it’s the album in microcosm, slowly simmering – and building palpable atmosphere in the process – towards an explosive finale that has Flynn on the vocal form of his life. Little touches like the spoken word track on Imaginal Cells and the tortured, brooding feel of Damage Inside are further testament to Machine Head’s appetite for the cinematic. There’s a considered theatricality running through Bloodstone & Diamonds that sets Machine Head a class apart from their mainstream metal rivals.